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Canadian track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell adds to medal haul at Milton World Cup

MILTON, Ont. — With persistent stomach flu symptoms refusing to subside, Canadian track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell did well just to make it to the Mattamy National Cycling Centre on Saturday.

Earning a silver medal in the women's sprint was a nice bonus.

Mitchell, who won the team sprint gold a day earlier, reached her second straight final at the UCI Track World Cup but couldn't outrace Laurine van Riessen of the Netherlands in the evening showdown.

Van Riessen held off a furious charge by the Canadian in the opener of the best-of-three final before taking the second heat to seal the win.

"I know my speed is there, it's just tactically she has a lot more experience than me," Mitchell said. "She's a hell of a rider."

Mitchell, from Sherwood Park, Alta., guaranteed herself a medal with a semifinal win over American Madalyn Godby earlier in the day. 

"In between rounds, I was such a baby," Mitchell said with a laugh. "I was downstairs with a cold cloth on my face and people shaking my legs out. But when you get on the track, I think the adrenaline just kicks in and all that (nauseous) feeling goes away.

"Then as soon as you stop, it hits you again. So just making it through the day was the hard part."

Mitchell and Lauriane Genest are the lone Canadian women's sprinters entered in this World Cup. Hugo Barrette of Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., is the only Canadian men's sprinter. 

The women's kierin and omnium are on tap Sunday along with men's sprint and madison competitions.

For Olympic qualification, a 20-month period is used to build ranking points at World Cups and other international events. The world championships next month in Berlin will be the final opportunity for countries to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in the six different disciplines for each gender.

Mitchell has been a quick study since taking up track cycling less than three years ago. 

The former university soccer player won a national sprint title in 2018 and finished sixth in her World Cup debut a year ago in Hong Kong. 

She reached the podium twice at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games and set a world record in the women's flying 200-metre sprint at the Pan American championship last summer in Bolivia.

Mitchell, who moved to Milton a couple years ago, got a boost from the sellout crowd of over 1,000 spectators. Several friends and family members were in attendance.

"I gave everything I had," she said. "The crowd was amazing. The adrenaline was pumping the whole time. I just have a lot to learn on the track. Hopefully I'm going to take what I learned from here and bring it to worlds."

Mitchell was originally tabbed to race in the keirin on Sunday. Genest, from Levis, Que., will take her spot instead.

"I really wanted to race it but I'm just kind of digging a hole right now," Mitchell said. "Worlds is the main goal at the end of all this. I'll just try to get healthy again and be prepared for worlds."

Calgary's Jackson Kinniburgh was 18th in the men's omnium. Canada did not have a cyclist reach the final round in men's keirin.

Devaney Collier of Edmonton and Miriam Brouwer of Burlington, Ont., were 13th in women's madison.

The Canadian team's endurance squads are NextGen riders as the A-teams are training in New Zealand ahead of the world championships. 

Canadian Cycling Hall of Famers Curt Harnett and Gordon Singleton were in attendance Saturday. Harnett is a four-time Olympian while Singleton won a world title in the keirin event in 1982.

This is the third year that the Mattamy National Cycling Centre has hosted a World Cup competition. The venue will also host the UCI para-cycling track world championship next week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2020.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press